10 Tips to Make Your IVR Excellent, not Terrible
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is the system we hate to deal with, but are forced to any time we need a bank, delivery service, or mobile service provider.
Ideally, we’d like our call to be received by a real operator who would listen to our problem and at best work to solve it, or at worst would transfer our call to the appropriate specialist.
Here are 10 tips suggested by our experts on how to make your IVR excellent rather than terrible.
1. The best IVR is your operator
If your operators instruct your customers to “Press “one-two-three-# right upon connection,” if one of the most frequently asked questions on your company’s website is how to bypass your IVR, or if you don’t like to call your contact center — it’s time to get rid of this grater!
Train your employees to answer 80% of customer’s questions. Plan to review your shift schedules. Hire MORE operators and turn off this infernal machine! In case you really regret it, you can set up your IVR to process calls only when there are no available operators.
If you don’t believe me, you should find out the statistics on how many of your customers stay to the end of the voice menu. If it is less than 90% then you have a problem. If it is less than 50% — you have a really big problem.
2. Customers are your friends, you should talk to them
Even if you do not want to turn off your IVR, you still have many ways to show your customers that you’re eager to provide services to them.
For example, the first option in your voice menu should be how to connect to an operator. If your customers want to talk to an operator, they will wait for the necessary menu option and join the queue, but by the time of connection, they will be annoyed. And you would be too. You should enable your customer to choose to connect to the operator right away.
3. Don’t pretend that you don’t recognize them
Because you recognize them. It’s not the 20th century now; most of your customers call you from their mobile phones, sometimes (rarely) their home phones. Such telephone numbers are usually identified without mistakes. You should immediately transfer such calls to customer’s personal manager.
Automatic caller identification is not the only way to personalize your services. For example, your customer makes an internet call from one of the pages of your web-shop using the “call from site” option. Great! Then you know what the customer needs. If they opened the household appliances page, they won’t call you to order auto parts.
4. Use the power of technologies
Push-button phone is not the only achievement of the modern civilization that can serve you. Voice identification has recently become quite an industrial technology. Your customers should not be necessarily forced to frantically push buttons on their phones — teach your IVR several dozens of simple words such as “reserve”, “payments”, “tickets”, “tariffs”, and “operator” — the most important word!
It’s entirely possible that your customer calls you just to know their payment date, account balance, or document status. Use the TTS (text to speech) functionality to inform customers of what they need without involving real operators.
By the way, there are visual IVR systems that display menus similar to web and mobile portals on smartphones. It’s worth trying!
5. Press “zero” to receive services
You should not force your customers to choose from too many options and press too many buttons. Your voice menu should be logical, shallow and not too branchy. It doesn’t matter if these requirements are contradicting — it’s more important for you that your customers remain cheerful.
After the second level of branches, customers should be connected to operators. Each level should provide up to four options to choose from. Upon closer look, that’s enough.
Bear in mind that at each branch of your voice menu, customers should be able to return to the previous menu and to listen to the current menu once again. Nothing drives customers so frantic as a “dead-end” menu that gives only one way out — to hang up the phone!
6. Be short
On average, one message in a voice menu lasts for 40 seconds and some are longer than a minute. These are too long. A voice menu should not be longer than 20 seconds. Brevity is the soul of wit.
By the way, if you look at the world from the customers’ point of view, you will realize that the operator’s time to answer starts from the moment of connection with IVR and not from the point IVR finishes its work. Therefore, when a company claims to process 80% of calls in 20 seconds, instead it processes 80% of calls in 60 seconds! Let us give you a tip: you should measure operator’s time to answer from the point IVR responses and not from the time when the call is queued. Otherwise, your customer centricity and assertions about “20 seconds of waiting on the line” can become a subject of long internet discussions and negative reviews in social networks and forums.
7. Five minutes, five minutes
Least of all, people like uncertainty. If you cannot process a customer’s call right away, you should tell him/her the truth and give a correct estimation: “You will be connected to the operator in three minutes.” Accuracy of the estimation has a significant impact on the customers’ satisfaction. It is better to wait for three minutes and to know how much time is left before you will be connected than to listen to piped music just for one minute… and for one more minute… and for five more minutes…
You should bear in mind that customers want to know the queuing time rather than their place in the queue. The fact that the customer is the fourth or the seventh in the queue is absolutely useless.
Additionally, you should not necessarily force your customers to listen to music. In most cases, it sounds pretty bad on the telephone lines. Better to provide some interesting information about your company or let your customers choose information on different subjects.
You should not keep your customers waiting for more than 10 minutes. What if IVR told you that “You will be connected to the operator in 15 minutes”? What would you think? Well, your customers will wonder just how foolish you take them to be. In such cases, you should use voice messaging and a dial-back option.
In case of peak loads on your call center, you can use alternative methods of service. For example, you can provide this additional menu option: “Unfortunately, the estimated time to answer exceeds 10 minutes. Please, specify your question.” If the question is about the status of the order, the call can be transferred to the Logistics Department. If the customers need general information, you can tell them your web address.
8. A dial-back
What if a call is lost? Remember what we said earlier — most of the customers call you from their mobile phones, only sometimes from their home phones. An automatic dial-back is not always possible, but in many cases, it is.
Of course, you should dial back if the conversation between the customer and the operator is dropped. A dial-back should connect the customer to the same operator so that the customer will not have to repeat his/her story from the beginning.
9. Then we come to you
What could be worse than calling IVR? Just one thing — when IVR calls you. You answer your phone and you hear a jarring music or a mysterious silence interrupted by noise on the other end. You would like to hang up, but what if it’s something important?
For mass calling, please take care to customize your IVR so that the customers who you call, readily understand who is calling and why — without waiting until the operator is free to talk to them.
And don’t forget about your greeting to customers. We recommend adjusting your greeting to the time of day in the customers’ time zone — “Good evening!” after 6 p.m. sounds better than the standard “Hello!” and much better than, “Good afternoon!”
10. Pay attention to the voice and the text
A greeting recorded in a pleasant voice of a professional speaker will cause much less annoyance than a less professional job. Rotating male and female voices within one voice menu is also a good idea.
Also, you don’t have to use the same standard phrases such as, “Thank you for calling,” “Listen to our voice menu options,” or “Your call is very important for us”. Think of something slightly new and your customers will be pleasantly surprised.